HC Deb 17 December 1906 vol 167 cc1139-46

Lords Amendments considered.

Lords Amendment, in page 1, line 18, after the word "attend," to insert the words "peaceably and in a reasonable manner." read a second time.


in moving that the House disagree with this Amendment reminded the House that, while the words quoted appeared in the Bill as originally framed, they were after consideration deliberately omitted by the House because of the impossibility of defining "reasonable manner," No standard which should be universally applicable and recognised as to the conduct of those engaged in the operation of picketing could be arrived at beforehand so that those who proposed to exercise the right could know whether they would come within the clause or not. The words would be of no practical advantage, and would be apt to lead to violation of the law. For those reasons he hoped the House would consider that the Government were justified in inviting them to disregard this Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir John Walton.)

LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)

thought the House was in rather a strange position because these were, after all, the words originally placed in the Bill as it was read a first and a second time and as it passed through Committee. These very words had been strenuously advocated by the Attorney-General as necessary and desirable for the proper working of the Act, and for the defence of the rights of the various persons who would be affected. But when they came to the Report stage of the Bill the Attorney-General took an entirely different view, and said that if they inserted "peacefully" later on there would be no object in inserting "peaceably and in a reasonable manner." At that time the Attorney-General said that on the whole the words he proposed were the least liable to misconstruction. Now the hon. and learned Gentleman declared that the insertion of the words would be a serious danger and ought to be excluded. It was a very unfortunate thing that the principal legal adviser of the Government should have taken two if not three different views upon this point. He did not think that the difference between the words which the Government inserted on Report and those which the House of Lords had inserted was a very serious matter, and he did not care very much whether the House accepted or rejected the Amendment.

MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)

did not think the Attorney General had touched the real point. The question was whether or not the picketing to be allowed should be done peaceably and in a reasonably manner. What was the reason which the hon. Gentleman had given why this House should decline to insist that these operations should be done in a reasonable manner.? He said they should leave out the word "reasonable" because it was impossible of definition. That very point was urged against the Government by Gentlemen below the gangway. The Attorney-General, in defending his original proposal, said that— While it was possible that the word 'reasonable' might raise some difficulty in application he could not conceive any expression more appropriate or more likely to do justice on the whole to all the parties concerned. That was the opinion of the Attorney-General upon a dry point of law and interpretation, and it was a little unfortunate that the House should have been placed in such a position in this matter.


After making that speech, I entirely recast the clause.


said that although the new clause substituted "peacefully" for "peaceably" it did not alter the validity of the argument he had used in respect to the words "peaceably and in a reasonable manner." The picketing was not now to be done in a reasonable manner. This was an important matter, and if the Motion was pressed to a division he should vote against it.

MR. F. E. SMITH (Liverpool, Walton)

said that as one who thought this Bill was a very bad one, he might be allowe to state to the House why he accepted the proposal of the Attorney-General. He did not think it would be the wish of the House that he should attempt to follow the Government in the tedious and conflicting arguments which they had laid before the Committee and the House upon this point. The reason why he should adopt the proposal of the Attorney-General was that, after giving the best consideration to the clause as originally drafted and to the clause as it was subsequently redrafted, he had formed the opinion that the House now possessed as valuable a security for preventing legal excesses on the part of trade unions and picketing as they had in the clause in its original shape. He supposed that they would all be agreed that Courts of law should be in a position to deal with those who had committed these illegal acts. He did not think that hon. Members below the gangway would consent to the redrafted clause of the Attorney-General or dissent from the Amendment based upon that which had been made by the House of Lords, because they had stated over and over again that their object was to keep themselves away from the arbitrary decisions of magistrates. It was because he believed that the clause as redrafted by the Attorney-General left trade unionists more in the hands of juries as to the construing of their action that he supported the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.

Lords Amendment, "in page 2, line 12, to leave out from the word 'nine' to the end of the clause, and insert the words 'Provided that the said trustees shall not be made liable in any action for any tortious act committed for or on behalf of the union where such tortious act does not touch or concern the property, right, or claim to property of the trade union,"the next Amendment, read a second time.


said it was with regret he moved that the House disagree with this Amendment because he would have been glad to have proposed agreement with the insertion of the words if he had been able to come to the conclusion that they would accomplish the object for which they were inserted, and that they did not expose the Bill to misconstruction. The House would recollect that when they discussed this matter it was pointed out by some learned Members that the application of certain dicta of an eminent Judge in a well-known case made a trade union liable for acts which did not directly or immediately or even indirectly, arise in furtherance of a trade dispute. It was necessary in consequence to modify the clause in order to avert that danger. He confessed he could not conceive of an act which should be done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute which touched or concerned the property of the union, because acts done in furtherance of a trade dispute were not acts done by the use directly, at all events, of the union property. Certainly the real property of a union could scarcely be employed in furtherance of a trade dispute. On the whole, it did not appear to him that the adoption of these words would in practice, and possibly not even on a strict construction of the language create an immunity for which the trade unions did not ask, and which it was not sought by this legislation to confer upon them. On the other hand, if the words were not omitted, there would be considerable danger that they would paralyse trade unions in all their proceedings in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir John Walton.)

*MR. CAVE (Surrey, Kingston)

thought the clause in the Bill, which conferred the immunity of the trustees to acts done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute, was in that respect better than the proviso sent don by the House of Lords.

Question put, and greed to.

Lords Amendment, "in page 2, line 24, after the word 'dispute' to insert the words 'between employers and workmen, servants, or persons employed in any trade or industry whether in such employer's employment or not,'" the next Amendment, read a second time.


moved to amend the Lords' Amendment by leaving out from the word "workmen" to the end of the Amendment in order to insert "or between workmen and workmen," and to add words defining the word "workman" as including all persons employed in trade or industry, whether employed by the employer concerned in the dispute or not. He said that the clause as he proposed to amend it would cover the case of the sympathetic strike by destroying the construction which had been placed on the words "employer" and "workman" us they were used in Section 3 of the Act of 1875. For those reasons he begged to move to amend the Lords' Amendment by leaving out on page 2, line 34, from the word "workman" to the end of the Amendment, in order to insert "or between workmen and workmen."

Motion made, and Question "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the said Amendment," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed be there inserted."


thought the Amendment framed by the Attorney-General carried out more effectually what was aimed at by the House of Lords, and he hoped that the House would assent to it.

MR. CLEMENT EDWARDS (Denbigh District)

said he had some misgiving as to whether the Amendment would cover a case which not unfrequently arose where the dispute was not between the employer and his workman but between the employer and a trade union official. He was quite sure there was no intention of excluding such a case from the purview of the Bill.


said he must honestly admit that the Amendments proposed both in the other House and that drafted by the hon. and learned Attorney-General were so complicated that he did not feel absolutely certain what they really meant, and whether they would exclude cases which he feared might arise in Ireland.


said he did not share the doubts of the hon. member for East Marylebone. The Amendment had been very carefully considered, so as to cover every possible case and to remove any reasonable apprehension.

Lords' Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

A consequential Amendment made to the Bill.

Committee appointed to draw up reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Amendments made by the Lords to the Bill.

Committee nominated of, Mr. Attorney-General, Mr. John Burns, Mr. Lloyd-George, Mr. Solicitor-General, and Mr. Whitely.

Three to be the quorum.

To withdraw immediately.—(Sir John Walton.)